Switzerland referendum: Voters support ban on face coverings in public

Posters promoted by the Swiss People’s Party featured a woman in a black niqab and captions such as “Stop extremism!” and “Stop radical Islam!”!

Switzerland has narrowly voted in favour of banning face coverings in public, including the burka or niqab worn by Muslim women.

Official results showed the measure had passed by 51.2% to 48.8% in Sunday’s referendum.

The proposal was put forward by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) which campaigned with slogans such as “Stop extremism”.

A leading Swiss Islamic group said it was “a dark day” for Muslims.

“Today’s decision opens old wounds, further expands the principle of legal inequality, and sends a clear signal of exclusion to the Muslim minority,” the Central Council of Muslims said in a statement, adding that it would challenge the decision in court.

The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes, in Geneva, says the result is not the thumping majority that the SVP had hoped for but it is enough to ensure a ban on face coverings will be written into Switzerland’s constitution.

The Swiss government had argued against the ban saying it was not up to the state to dictate what women wear.

According to research by the University of Lucerne (in German), almost no-one in Switzerland wears a burka and only around 30 women wear the niqab. About 5% of Switzerland’s population of 8.6 million people are Muslim, most originating from Turkey, Bosnia and Kosovo.

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